Elly Nedivi looks at the camera before a backgrond of flasks and bottles on shelves in her lab

Elly Nedivi

William R. (1964) & Linda R. Young Professor of Neuroscience
Investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Professor, Department of Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Office: 46-3225
Phone: 617-253-2344

Administrative Assistant

Charles Moss
Office: 46-3241
Phone: 617-452-2070
Email: vmoss@mit.edu

Candidate Plasticity Genes

To understand the cellular mechanisms that underlie activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adult brain, we are identifying and characterizing the participating genes and the function of the proteins they encode. This work began with the cloning of a large number of activity-regulated genes that we termed candidate plasticity genes (CPGs). It turned out that the CPG pool is highly enriched for genes important for neuronal survival, connectivity, and synaptic transmission, suggesting that activity-regulated genes are critical for the development and function of brain circuits.

We have elucidated the neuronal and synaptic function of two previously unknown CPGs, CPG2 and CPG15, and characterized their very different activities, showing that each provides unique insight into diverse aspects of plasticity mechanisms. Both molecules have subsequently become well known, CPG15 (later name neuritin) as an extracellular ligand with multiple roles (also outside the nervous system), and CPG2 as a product of SYNE-1, one of the best genetic hits for bipolar disorder. These two genes are still the focus of some research projects in the lab. Recently, we have returned to the CPG pool for identification of additional genes of interest.

Structural Plasticity in Cortical Circuits

Motivated by the large number of CPGs that affect neuronal structure, we have also been collaborating with Peter So’s lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT to develop multi-photon microscopy for large volume, high resolution imaging of dendritic arbor and synaptic structural dynamics in vivo. Using this system, we have chronically imaged and reconstructed the dendritic trees of neurons in visual cortex of thy1-GFP transgenic mice through surgically implanted cranial windows. Our lab was the first to show unambiguous evidence of dendritic growth and retraction and of branch tip additions in the adult brain. Surprisingly, our data singled out GABAergic interneurons as those capable of structural dynamics, suggesting that circuit rearrangement is restricted by cell type-specific rules.

By combining chronic two-photon microscopy in vivo with classic visual manipulations, we showed that experience drives structural remodeling of superficial cortical layer 2/3 interneurons in an input- and circuit-specific manner. Recently, we have developed methods for labeling and chronic monitoring of excitatory and inhibitory synapses across entire neuronal arbors in the mouse visual cortex in vivo. We are currently using these methods to examine different types of input onto layer 2/3 pyramidal cells, as well as the timing of constructive and destructive events in terms of pre and postsynaptic components.

Elly Nedivi received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University Medical School and completed her postdoctoral training at The Weizmann Institute in Israel. In 1998, after two years at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she joined the faculty of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. She also has an appointment in the Department of Biology at MIT.

  • Krieg Cortical Kudos Discoverer Award, 2023

  • BCS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2018

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Fellow, 2016
  • AFAR Julie Martin Mid-Career Award in Aging Research, 2007 – 2011
  • Edgerly Innovation Fund Award, 2006
  • Dean’s Education and Student Advising Award, 2003
  • NSF Powre Award, 1999
  • Alfred P . Sloan Research Fellowship, 1999 – 2001
  • Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award, 1997 – 2002
Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

November 12, 2021
Joha Park, Sarim Khan, Dae Hee Yun, Taeyun Ku, Katherine L. Villa, Jiachen E. Lee, Qiangge Zhang, Juhyuk Park, Guoping Feng, Elly Nedivi, Kwanghun Chung. Science Advances, 12 Nov 2021, Vol 7, Issue 46
December 18, 2020
Sung Min Yang, Katrin Michel, Vahbiz Jokhi, Elly Nedivi, Paola Arlotta, Science,
Vol. 370, Issue 6523, eabd2109, DOI: 10.1126/science.abd2109
January 4, 2019
Rathje M, Waxman H, Benoit M, Tammineni P, Leu C, Loebrich S, Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 4
September 26, 2018
Eavri R, Shepherd J, Welsh CA, Flanders GH, Bear MF, Nedivi E. J Neurosci. 2018 Sep 26;38(39):8421-8432
August 1, 2018
Boivin JR, Nedivi E. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2018 Aug;51:16-22.

Livestreaming the Brain

March 15, 2024
Research Feature
To learn how the brain works, Picower Institute labs are advancing technologies and methods to watch it live as it happens

Award honors Elly Nedivi’s research on cortical plasticity

November 6, 2023
Picower People
The Krieg Cortical Kudos Discoverer Award recognizes Nedivi’s ongoing work to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms that enable the brain to adapt to experience

Sparse, small, but diverse neural connections help make perception reliable, efficient

February 2, 2023
Research Findings
First detailed mapping and modeling of thalamus inputs onto visual cortex neurons show brain leverages “wisdom of the crowd” to process sensory information

The model remodeler

March 14, 2022
Research Feature
A Picower Institute primer on ‘plasticity,’ the brain’s amazing ability to constantly adapt to and learn from experience

Symposium spotlights crucial roles of dendrites

October 18, 2021
Recent Events
Scholars from around the world gathered online to share new research on how intricately structured neural processes enable plasticity of circuit connections and help integrate incoming information to enable brain function

Summer students thrive in Picower labs

August 11, 2021
Picower People
Undergraduates from colleges across the country gain scientific training, mentorship and experience as participants in the MIT Summer Research Program

Playing chess, not checkers: Neurons dynamically control their myelin patterns

December 18, 2020
Research Findings
Researchers identify a new level of complexity in how the brain responds to stimuli

Genes & Disease

December 14, 2020
Research Feature
Picower scientists are making the dauntingly long but highly motivating climb between associating a gene with disease and developing potential treatments.

Look and Learn: Studying the visual system

March 13, 2020
Research Feature
Research on how the brain processes sight has told neuroscientists much about how the brain works more broadly

Fundamental questions find advanced answers, approaches at Fall Symposium

October 18, 2019
Experts from around the world discuss "Neural Mechanisms of Memory and Cognition"

Aygul Balcioglu

Research Associate

Josiah Boivin

Postdoctoral Fellow

Kendyll Burnell

Technical Assistant

Jisang Lee

Technical Assistant

Phoebe Lee

Technical Assistant

Charles Moss

Administrative Assistant

Dalila Ordonez

Postdoctoral Associate

Daniela Molina Palacios

Technical Assistant

Baovi Vo

Postdoctoral Fellow